"Mr. Biscardi's 31-year-old Tartini, for violin and piano, is quite a showpiece, mingling boogie-woogie rhythms with virtuoso atonality, but still finding room for bittersweet lyricism. It was stunningly played by Maria Schleuning [of Voices of Change], who's a fabulous violinist, and Mr. Bray."
"A set of three contrasting works by Chester Biscardi, head of the music department at Sarah Lawrence College, displayed Biscardi at three phases of his career. Tartini for Violin and Piano, a 1972 tribute to the 18th-century violin virtuoso and composer Giuseppe Tartini, showed Biscardi on the verge of breaking away from the strictures of midcentury academic serialism."
Tartini is a work that straddles Biscardi's emergence from the strictures of academia over thirty years ago to the assertion of his own voice as a composer. Although he acknowledges that Tartini employs a twelve-tone row constructed from melodies in the Baroque original, he says the row is 'loose.' "It's the only twelve-tone piece I composed," he says. "I guess you could think of it as my response to the academic serialist bent that was so prevalent in the early 1970s." It was written for Tom Moore, a member of the famed Pro Arte Quartet (founded by Rudolf Kolisch and for whom Schoenberg and Bartok wrote their fourth string quartets) in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The published note in the score indicates that the fast-slow-fast, one-movement structure is a miniature representation of the original, three-movement sonata. Biscardi adds, "I'm Italian! My music tends to be lyrical, romantic and dramatic - that's what comes through in Tartini."
Like many composers of his generation, Biscardi's music starts off spikier than it has become, and Tartini (for violin and piano) is no exception, though there's an exciting theatricality about its rhetoric.
Tartini (1972), the earliest piece on the program, refers to older music as well. This short violin and piano piece is inspired by Charles Burney's account of the Devil's Trill Sonata, its material transformed into a short serial fantasy, with references from Schoenberg (the Phantasy) and Charles Wuorinen. It makes for a clever graduate student exercise.
Though it would be difficult for all but the non-specialist listener to tell, Tartini, for violin and piano, makes use of a twelve-tone row constructed from Giuseppe Tartini's so-called "Devil's Trill" Sonata, as well as melodic fragments and techniques from the same. What Tartini would make of the result is anyone's guess, but Biscardi himself describes it as "the first significant work that I wrote as an adult." Like much of Biscardi's music, Tartini is often restrained, contrasted here with bursts of violinistic virtuosity. Though it flirts moodily with atonality, overall the effect is agreeably euphonious, though perhaps too brief to be compelling.